International Laws on Revenge Porn

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By Viorel Sima via Shutterstock.com

The unauthorised sharing of explicit photos and video, commonly known as revenge porn, is a growing problem in many parts of the world. Frequently this material was originally taken and shared consensually between intimate partners, but after a break-up, one partner posts it publicly to humiliate their ex. Revenge porn was once seen as something of a teenage prank. However, there is a growing movement to recognise the seriousness of this behavior which can disrupt the lives of victims and make it difficult for them to hold jobs or maintain relationships, leading in some cases to depression and suicide.

At ReputationDefender we help our clients build and maintain a positive online profile that will aid with building a successful career. Revenge porn can be the ultimate reputation destroyer. Once revealing images or videos have been circulated around the web, it can be very difficult to remove all copies or counteract the traffic generated by viral sharing.

Countries are Moving to Protect Victims

Revenge porn frequently crosses international boundaries, but there is still no global standard for dealing with it. Many countries, such as the UK, have recently enacted national laws specifically criminalising revenge porn and punishing perpetrators with jail time or large fines.

In England and Wales, revenge porn became illegal in April 2015 and carries a maximum jail time of two years. Northern Ireland and Scotland enacted similar laws in 2016. Some people have criticised the British law because it requires victims to prove evidence of malicious intent, thus eliminating prosecution for people who simply share the images without knowing who they are about. However, as of September 2016 there were more than 200 prosecutions in England and Wales under the new law.

In the US, there is no national law, but 34 states have enacted legislation that can be applied to revenge porn. Many of these laws have been successful in taking down large sites that perpetrate revenge porn, and owners have received jail time in Ohio and California. However, prosecution standards and protection for victims can vary across state boundaries.

Revenge Porn Laws Around the World

Other countries around the world have even more varied approaches to revenge porn. This is a small sample of ten countries and what they have done (or not done) to deal with this problem.

Germany — Germany has very strict laws on privacy which have been successfully applied to revenge porn. In May 2014, courts ruled in favor of a revenge porn victim, requiring her ex-partner to delete all intimate photos of her. Later cases have given women the right to “revoke consent” and require a partner to delete intimate images at any time, even if they’re only held privately.

France — France also already has privacy protections in place which can be applied to revenge porn. French penal code forbids the transmission of pictures “taken within a private place without the consent of the person concerned.”

Denmark — Denmark’s parliament has been pushing for stronger revenge porn laws for almost a year now, after several perpetrators who had published photos of teenage girls received only minimal fines. New measures passed in 2017 will include up to two years jail time as well as more support for victims who report a crime.

Italy — Italy has not enacted “specific laws” applying to revenge porn. In one particularly tragic case from September 2016, a young woman committed suicide after an ex posted an intimate video of her on the internet.

Canada — Bill C-13, popularly called the cyberbullying act, came into effect in April 2015. As well as protecting children from online harassment and bullying, the law can be applied to adult victims of revenge porn. The first big victory in came January 2016 when courts awarded more than $100,000 in damages to a woman whose ex had posted a private sex tape of her.

Australia — Like the US, there is no national law in Australia, however two states, Victoria and South Australia, have already criminalised revenge porn, and New South Wales is in the process of proposing legislation. Maximum penalties include two years in jail in Victoria and either a $10,000 fine or two years in jail in South Australia.

Philippines — In 2009, the Philippines was one of the first countries to nationally criminalise revenge porn. Perpetrators will serve a minimum of three years in jail time.

Israel — Israel updated the Sexual Harassment Bill in 2014 to include sharing intimate photos without the subject’s consent. Revenge porn is considered a sex crime in Israel and penalties are some of the strictest with up to five years in jail.

Japan — Japan enacted laws against revenge porn in November 2014 that carry a maximum sentence of 500,000 yen or three years in jail. The first successful prosecution in February 2015 was against a man who scattered physical pictures of his nude girlfriend in a mall parking lot.

China — China has one of the biggest problems with online revenge. As well as the more typical instances of revenge porn, some attacks take the form of a mass vigilante effort known as a “human flesh search engine” that is aimed at humiliating people accused of various crimes. There is still no law targeting this type of behavior.

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